Weekend news round-up: Bitcoin hits US$1bn; celebs crack Google Glass

2 Apr 2013

Google co-founder Sergey Brin sports the forthcoming Google Glass digital eyewear

In our round-up of the weekend’s best tech stories, currency Bitcoin is now valued at US$1bn; Google’s ‘If I had Glass’ competition features an embarrassingly high proportion of celebrity winners; could Facebook’s new smartphone turn mobile operators into dumb pipes; and how Boston police’s attempts at being hip have failed to fool the hipsters.

Coining it

The world’s first open-source cryptographic currency, which has been on a tear since the beginning of this year, set a new record for itself at the weekend as the price listed on the largest online exchange rose past US$92.

According to IEEE Spectrum, with nearly 11m Bitcoins in circulation, this sets the total worth of the currency just over US$1bn.

“For a bit of perspective, that’s how much Facebook spent on its acquisition of Instagram last April. But Bitcoin is not a company. It’s a digital currency that runs on a global peer-to-peer network without the backing of a nation or any other central authority. The recent ascent has traditional economists scratching their heads,” IEEE Spectrum reported.

Cracked Glass, the celebs have

The Verge reported that Google has had to rescind some of its Google offers after it emerged that a considerable number of winners of the ‘If I Had Glass’ competition to be among the first to purchase the new digital eyewear were overwhelmingly celebrities, politicians and well-known entrepreneurs rather than ordinary members of the hoi-polloi.

First-round competition winners included Foursquare’s Dennis Crowley, musician Soulja Boy, MythBuster Adam Savage and former Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich.

“There also looks to be an unsurprising focus on users with a fairly significant number of followers. Google’s rules for the competition, in fact, say that influence and reach would be taken into account. That’s not to say that users with few followers didn’t get chosen as well: some 602 users on Twitter with 100 or fewer followers were selected out of the 2,318 Twitter winners included on Karpathy’s list, including one with just seven followers.”

Boston bunglers

Slate reported at the weekend that Boston police have taken to masquerading online as music fans to infiltrate the city’s thriving underground music scene in order to cut down on DIY concerts in people’s homes. It’s a form of nuisance control, apparently.

However, the efforts have only attracted derision from hipsters who, rather than succumbing to a sting operation are leaving cops feeling stung over their lack of music knowledge.

“While police departments have been using social media to investigate for years, its use in such seemingly trivial crimes would be rather chilling, if these efforts didn’t seem so laughably inept. It’s a law enforcement technique seemingly cribbed from MTV’s Catfish – but instead of creating a fake persona to ensnare the marks in a romantic internet scam, it’s music fandom that’s being feigned.

“Almost everyone in the DIY scene has had an experience with phony police emails, direct messages on Twitter, and interactions on social media. For some, it’s become just another part of the promotion business – a game of spot-the-narc in which the loser gets his show shut down.”

Facebook takes a stab at the post-minutes, post-SMS world of mobile

MG Siegler’s Paris Lemon blog provided an interesting perspective on all the hoopla surrounding the emergence of a Facebook phone this week.

While rumours of such a device have come and gone over the years, Siegler points out that while Facebook might be running the gauntlet with Google a little, the real development here is the implication the arrival of such devices will have on the fate of mobile operators long suspicious of what Google and Facebook might do to their revenues.

“Of course, that writing has been on the wall for some time. Data phones are the way going forward. Still, the carriers must be a little scared of the post-minutes, post-SMS world that this Facebook Phone highlights. It’s a huge change. The carriers are finally becoming the dumb pipes they were meant to be.” Ouch.

Cyber-criminals will triumph in the distracted economy

How much information are we giving away willy-nilly in the pursuit of online bargains? A lot, according to the New York Times, which reported how consumers who are distracted by the need to speedily nab online deals are leaving a trail of digital dust in their wake that could spell potential financial disaster.

In a report that looked at the psychology of shoppers and the potential risks even household internet names could open us up to, the future could be grim indeed if people don’t take better control of their online data.

“Say you’ve come across a discount online retailer promising a steal on hand-stitched espadrilles for spring. You start setting up an account by offering your e-mail address – but before you can finish, there’s a ping on your phone. A text message. You read it and respond, then return to the website, enter your birth date, click F for female, agree to the company’s terms of service and carry on browsing.

“But wait: What did you just agree to? Did you mean to reveal information as vital as your date of birth and e-mail address?”

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years